|FNC's Greg Palkot|
It was a mixed crowd, including Sunni Arabs, so the deck wasn't stacked in my favor. They knew I was American and they were actually friendly (don't think that's an awfully common experience). It wasn't set up by the Pentagon or the State Department. Everybody was eager to talk to me, many in remarkably good English.
I mean, knocking down doors with Marines and soldiers hunting for insurgents is necessary, and Lord knows I've done my share of that, but this was an even bigger kick.
We were in what we felt was a pretty secure environment, with Baghdad basically locked down to any car bombers. It was one of those rare moments when you could just relax and chat with Iraqis without looking over your shoulder for a terrorist, or without an Abrams tank hovering around the corner.
The basic gist: Iraqis were pleased as punch to be able to choose whomever they wanted to run their country.
I talked to a lot of folks. Some were pretty cautious about the future. A pretty young girl (I guessed she was just over the minimum voting age of 18) had actually some nasty things to say about the U.S., but most were full of optimism. All were thrilled to be there.
They came with their families. A lot of kids. They came all dressed up. Like it was a wedding. But it was really a celebration.
During the whole thing, I had a flashback to a little more than three years ago when I covered MY LAST "election" in Iraq. A faux referendum on Saddam Hussein, in which (guess what?) 100% of Iraqi's voted, and (guess what?) 98% said they liked Saddam (pity those other two per cent).
Now I wondered "on air" whether Saddam was aware this was all happening today, and if so, what the heck he must be thinking.
You see, what was so cool about the whole day was that it was such a bipartisan lark. I mean, you could be dead set against the war in Iraq and you still couldn't quibble with Iraqis enjoying having the right to select their future government
Now, I know I'm skimming over all the stuff to come, like assembling a government from whomever does end up winning (not easy). And then that government dealing with all the problems Iraq still faces (harder still).
But as I noted in at least a few live shots, it was great just to enjoy the day and groove on a country not pestered with bad guys wanting to do bad stuff.
And imagining a time in the hopefully not too distant future when Iraq could enjoy this kind of day...every day. Stranger things have happened.
Congratulations Iraq. Do it again!
Greg Palkot is a foreign correspondent for FOX News Channel based in Paris, France.
Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.